Press Article: Lose something? Lost & found

Lose something? Lost & found

Thursday, March 21, 2002

By LOIS CALIRI,THE ROANOKE TIMES

SOMEWHERE IN CANADA there is a man who is not wearing his leather jacket. That's because he left it at the Wyndham Roanoke Hotel when he was a guest there.

The hotel's director of housekeeping, Wanda Dillon, tried to send the jacket to its owner but found out that it's illegal to ship leather across the border. She did mail him the papers that were in the jacket's pockets.

The owner told her he will come back to Roanoke for his jacket. It awaits him at the Wyndham, neatly packed in a brown box on a metal shelf in the basement - just one item among thousands in the world of lost and found.

The Wyndham and the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center usually hold unclaimed items for six months before they are given to the employee who found them. An exception was the live fish found swimming in its bowl in a room at Hotel Roanoke. The owner didn't call, so it was given to the employee who found it after just five days.

The Wyndham is good at reuniting people with    the stuff they leave behind. "We're able to get 95 percent to 98 percent of the items back to the people," said Dillon. But hotel guests pay for the shipping.

A tour of lost and found departments at two hotels, a book store, a synagogue, restaurant, movie theater and two civic centers in the Roanoke Valley turned up a pile of cellphones, a wardrobe of coats and jackets, a drawerful of telephone adapters, enough sunglasses to last several Caribbean vacations and a vast array of eyeglasses.

Not to mention keys. Remote keyless auto entries. Beepers. Pagers. Jewelry. Single gloves and mittens. Single shoes. Belts. Watches. All waiting to be claimed, along with binoculars, cameras, a rainbow of umbrellas, a ible, an oak wine rack and a video labeled "Our Family Christmas."

"We had a camera here for two months," said Alan Payne, a manager at Texas Steakhouse. "Finally, the lady called and she couldn't believe we still had it. That call made her day."

Once a customer called the restaurant to say she had left her wallet there. The wallet hadn't been turned in, but the customer insisted it was there. "She was convinced one of the employees took it," Payne said. "We finally found it underneath a booth when we were cleaning." When the owner reclaimed her wallet, she didn't say she was sorry, and she didn't say thanks.

Unclaimed items often end up with a charity. Eyeglasses, for example, go to the Lions Club of Virginia, which recycles them.

Items given to Hotel Roanoke employees sometimes are donated to the hotel's holiday bazaar, where they are auctioned to benefit the Grant-a-Wish program.

At Carmike 10 Theater at Tanglewood Mall, only managers are allowed to rummage through purses for an ID. "I don't want my employees responsible" for any liability, said manager Richard Kobert.

"It's kind of creepy going through people's stuff," said Susan Bryant-Owens, a senior secretary at the Roanoke Civic Center who has a waist-deep pile of unclaimed articles in the corner behind her desk. When she has to rummage for an ID, she always wears gloves and always has a witness. "You can get stuck by a needle, and no one wants to be accused of stealing," she said.

When she returns items, she uses certified mail so the owners have to sign for them. And the civic c enter pays the shipping costs. Owens tries diligently to reunite patrons with their belongings. "Hopefully, they'll come back to the civic center for another show without bad feelings," she said.

She recently returned a 16-year-old boy's paycheck after taking pains to find his address. He never responded.

Not everyone is so ungrateful. "We had a lady who attended a New Year's Eve dance two years ago," Owens said. "She lost her diamond wedding band on the dance floor. The lady called the civic center, inquiring about the ring. It wasn't turned in." As luck would have it, a temporary employee found the wedding band while changing the floor over to ice. The happy owner wanted the name and address not only of the person who found the band but of his boss.

"If you send out 10 items, you might get one letter," said Jerry Bowles, a risk management officer at Hotel Roanoke. Either way, "it makes you feel good knowing I got something back to them."

Patrons of Mill Mountain Theat re should look closely at the scarves worn by actors and the umbrellas on stage. Articles left at the theater sometimes serve as stage props until reclaimed.

"I don't feel comfortable throwing anything away," said Jeannette Kenny, house manager and volunteer coordinator. "I'll try to track the person down," especially in the case of something valuable such as jewelry.

Sometimes she finds the owners by using the theater's computer system to find out who was sitting near where an item was found.

While the managers of other businesses will contact owners if they find identification, hotels tend to wait for the owners to call - especially when the article left behind is something like a wedding band. It's a way of respecting the privacy of their guests.

Hotel Wyndham and Hotel Roanoke keep detailed logs of their lost and found articles. They're wrapped in plastic and carefully labeled. Wallets, credit cards, checkbooks, cash and jewelry are usually locked up.

The log at Hotel Wyndham recorded 347 lost items between August 1999 and the end of that year. Of those, 99 were reclaimed.

At Hotel Roanoke, more than 500 items are neatly bagged and placed in bins that are numbered according to the days of the month. This system allows hotel employees to easily locate lost items, which currently include clothin , radios, pillows and even a bridal bouquet. The hotel's risk management office, aka lost and found, is open 24 hours a day. About half the lost items get returned and are shipped at hotel expense.

"I would like to think that if I left something anywhere I would want it cared for with as much energy as we put into it," said Phillip Davis, director of operations at Hotel Roanoke. Don't lose your cool, too, 'recovery expert' advises     Losing something can be traumatic. Owners often have no idea where they may have left their keys, jewelry, briefcases, cellphones or eyeglasses . They panic. Ransack their house. Check every crevice in their car. They may place an ad in a newspaper or on lost and found Web sites such as http://www.lostandfound.com (The Internet Lost and Found). Some fervently pray. Others accuse someone of stealing the item that's missing.

When you lose something, says Michael Solomon, don't look for it. "This is the most common mistake people make. And it can doom their search from the start," said Solomon, author of "How to Find Lost Objects."

To remember where something is, he says, you must be in the proper frame of mind. Otherwise, it's you who are lost - not those keys or that umbrella.

Solomon stresses the 3 C's: comfort, calmness and confidence. "Start by making yourself comfortable in an armchair or sofa. Have a cup of tea, perhaps, or a stick of gum, or pipeful of tobacco. Next, empty your mind of any unsettling thoughts. Pretend that the sea is lapping at your feet. Or that you're sitting in a garden full of birds and flowers. Finally, tell yourself you will locate that missing object," said Solomon, a professor at Baltimore School for the Arts. Staff writer Lois Caliri was inspired to write this story after losing the diamond ring her mother gave her as a high school graduation gift. Caliri had the ring for nearly 30 years. She even underwent hypnosis in hopes of finding it. The hypnotist told her that some people find a sense of closure after hypnosis even if they don't find what they lost. Caliri found neither closure nor her ring.

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Statistics
United States
Lost Items: 177323
Found Items: 56124
Worldwide
Lost Items: 208503
Found Items: 62182